I’m usually pretty good with words and writing my feelings down however I guess the bigger the experience the harder it is to write it out so it’s taken me a week to get this post finished and I honestly think there is SO much more I could say. The entire Chicago experience from the moment I found out I got accepted until the day we left Chicago was amazing. When I applied I told myself that if I got in it was God’s will for me to do another marathon. Last year I struggled so much with marathon training and the marathon itself and I didn’t want to have those feelings again. So when I got accepted I was excited but kept it on the back burner as I tried to focus on lowering my half times in the spring and winter this year.
I trained for 18 weeks through my coach Victoria, the owner of Run4Prs. I missed one 10 mile run the entire time due to my knee hurting and changed my last 22 mile run to a 19 mile run to be on the safe side. My husband Justin was training for Detroit all summer and it really helped me this year having him out there with me even though we don’t run the same pace at all. Our Saturdays were always spent getting up at 4:45 to get out to our trail by 6 am. There is a certain struggle of TWO parents training for a marathon- we definitely had some rough times but got in our training runs, even with me running at 3:30 am and him at sometimes 8:30-9pm. Training is not for everyone- some people get really sick of training, but I actually love it. I like the clear definition of what I need to do every day. I added a lot of cross-training in this year too which really helped me although once I hurt my knee a month before I stopped cross-training because I was nervous that I would injure it more.
So flash forward to marathon weekend. We made the decision to not take our kids. We thought about taking our oldest but I am glad I didn’t now. He would have been bored out of his mind at the expo and also we did a lot of walking. It would have also been hard for my husband to navigate getting to all the spots he wanted to see me at with Chandler with him, as he used the train system to get everywhere like they suggest to do. We left Friday morning around 8 am and got to Chicago around 12:30(CST). We checked-in to our hotel and then headed to the expo.
THE EXPO- it was nothing at all like anything I’ve ever been at! Most expos have small local shops and some big name vendors but Chicago is sponsored by Nike and everything is top-notch. We were able to watch a really cool interactive video of the course and talk to other runners from all around. It was so much fun and not overwhelming to me at all like I feel at most race expos. The Nike Chicago gear is awesome- I bought way too much of it along with some special Goodr #runchi sunglasses for the race.
Saturday was all about meeting people and just spending the day in Chicago. Justin ran the 5k, which started right behind our hotel, at 7:30 in the morning. So I took a Lyft as close as I could get to the finish line to see him. He did incredibly well considering he is doing a marathon this week and needed to do an easy run.
After the race we walked to the Bean to do the WeRunSocial Meet-up and the Run4Prs meet-up! It was SO fun! We spent almost two hours there just talking to people, meeting people in person that I’ve talked to for two years, and just chatting about the race conditions the next day. Many of them had run Chicago before so I got some advice and it was awesome to hear amazing runners like Heather Schulz say the marathon gets in her head too, when she is such a speedy and great runner. This running community is truly special.
I also met up with the Run4Prs girls who I talk to all the time and a group of girls that I text all day every day about more than running at this point- Amber and Sarah(and soon to be Julia who came the next day).
After the meet-up Justin had to run more for his last long run so I went back to the hotel and relaxed for awhile before we went shopping on Michigan Ave.(my birthday is coming up) :). For dinner we went out with Amber, her family, and Sarah to a Michigan bar so Justin could watch the game and they had a little of everything for people to choose from. It was starting to hit me at dinner that I was running a marathon in the morning! We got back and I was in bed by 9:30.
I woke up before my alarm at 4- suggested time to be at my gate was 6 am, although the race didn’t start until 8. Justin walked me as far as security would allow him and then I was off by myself! Unintentionally I ran into Amber and I was thrilled to see her! We were in different corrals but she was standing outside hers when I was walking to mine. We talked for awhile and then we ran into Rebecca(runbecca_run) who was in my corral and we talked and stood in the massive porta pot lines together. We were probably in the line for a good 45 minutes to an hour. Once we finished we all parted ways and got to our corrals. I found another friend Liz who talked with me until the time we started. I was in corral F the first corral in Wave 2. The start time is 8 am, let me tell you, 30 minutes on a hot sunny day can make a difference. The corrals were MASSIVE and I crossed the start line at 8:03. I need to get my half time down so maybe at least I can be in Wave 1 next time and start earlier!
EVERYONE told me to not go out fast. The crowds are electric and it’s so easy to get caught up in that so I tried to be conservative, that is definitely hard to do when you don’t know at all what your pace is. My first mile clicked at 7:30 and I knew that was wrong because it was way before the mile 1 sign. I kept checking my pace band though and watching my time on my watch not my pace. SO SO SO hard to do if you are used to pacing yourself between miles. I had no idea what pace I was running until I would get to a new mile sign. I wanted to stay around a 9 minute miles and adding it up in my head I was around 8:50 something in the first miles.
My goal at the half was to be slower than my half PR(1:54) and at the half I clocked in at 1:57 on my watch. So I knew I was doing something right, however the day was getting hot. The roads were wet from the huge amount of water hoses and sprays(which were a God send) that they were spraying and I was pouring water on me all the time. I was definitely squishy and I didn’t care- I wanted to stay as cool as possible. After the 25k mark I could feel my legs starting to slow but I knew Justin was supposed to be at mile 16 so I tried to keep up my pace so I could see him and he could give me my Generation Ucan. I stopped and got my drink from him and he looked at me and said “I know” because he knew how hot it was just standing there, he didn’t even need me to say it but then he said “you need to keep moving” so I did. Somewhere between mile 15-17 I made the decision to walk through the aid stations. I don’t regret this at all. It was hot, I needed to make sure I was drinking the entire glass and not just throwing it on my face. I knew my pace was so off at this point but it did not matter at all to me, I adjusted my goal in my mind and pushed forward. By mile 20, it looked like a scene from the walking dead in some areas. Hundreds of sponges on the roads, cups, the ground was soaked and people were stopped stretching, throwing up, and just walking with their heads down. The sun was relentless. I started thinking about my training, maybe I should run some more longs runs later in the day next year in the sun to prepare more for sunny days. It sounds awful to do but maybe that would prep me more for the sun. In my head I just kept telling myself to not think about the pain, it will be over soon, take a little jog, don’t stop moving. Over and over I repeated that and I knew I was moving at the slowest possible speed I could move but my body physically would not move faster. I tried to do some strides or surges to speed up and it would work for a minute but then I would slow back down to a slow jog. I ran past some store front windows and I thought “wow I look so slow” but I didn’t care- I was running and that’s all that mattered to me. I wasn’t giving up on this one and I didn’t want to walk until I got to the aid stations.
When I got to the final mile I felt a huge lump in my throat, I had MADE it. The crowds were cheering and it was nothing like I’ve ever been a part of, but my mind felt fuzzy and I just needed to get to the finish and climb that last hill. Then there it was 400 meters, 300 meters, around the corner and the FINISH LINE!
After I finished I cried, and just kept moving forward afraid that if I stopped I would fall down. I knew at mile 16 that I wouldn’t hit my goal of 4:00 hours but I didn’t know what would happen to be honest in the heat. At that point I put no time goal in my head except to PR. I crossed the finish like at 4:14.58. A 33 MINUTE PR! So a sub 4:15 on my second marathon ever! I will take it!! I was happy- SO happy!!! I could feel buzzing going off in my flipbelt, I knew it was friends texting me that were tracking me so eventually when I could gain strength enough to take my flip belt off and get my phone I looked at it. So many people thought I would be disappointed but I did not feel that way AT ALL! I haven’t even been running for 3 years yet, I was not a runner until I was in my 30’s, and I have asthma so to run a full 26.2 miles in hot and sunny conditions in 4:14 was a great time for me. Honestly it just made me realize that in good conditions I could do probably do much better and fueled me to want to do another marathon! The exact opposite of how I felt last year when I did my first full.
So then I went and sat in a porta john(just keeping it real with you guys)…this is because honestly I just needed to sit and get out of the sun and also because I had awhile until Justin was going to be at the runner reunite area. I texted my friends back and thanked God for letting my body do what it did that day.
There is a reason only 1% of the population has done a marathon- it is HARD. It requires commitment and training and if you don’t put that in, it will really hurt you on race day. Even though I didn’t reach my goal, I know that had I not trained like I did and if I would have missed runs or trained like I did last year I probably wouldn’t have even had a PR in the conditions.
I loved Chicago- and I will be back! It was by far the coolest experience I’ve ever had as a runner! I want to do every World Major now- HA!
So what’s next for me- My goal over the next 6 months is to cross-train more, I am starting a Pure Barre class too, and also get a sub 1:50 half marathon before I start training for my next full. Based of my time at the Crim 10 miler I should be able to do that with proper training. But right now I’m resting and making sure my body is fully recovered so all short and easy miles for a couple weeks. I’m excited to see my husband run his marathon this weekend- I’m so proud of him for training hard this summer! I also have a lot of other friends running the marathon and half in Detroit so I’m ready to ring the cowbell and be a spectator this weekend!
If you want to do a marathon- Chicago is awesome. It’s in early October so the weather historically can be iffy but it is so well put together and I would recommend it to anyone!
Well my match said I ran 29 miles with a few 4 and 5 minute miles just to give you an example of how off my Garmin was.
Official Time- 4:14.58
Place Overall – 14,716/44,258 finishers
Place Gender- 4,938/21,476 finishers
Place Division- 947/3,587 finishers
Thank you to everyone who followed my journey over the summer and for the constant love and support!